The majority of citizens use Dubai as a stopover destination. They fly in, stay for a night or two, and then go on to their final destination. Though Dubai is sometimes referred to as “Vegas in the desert,” there is a surprising amount to do here. The city has a scope that its mainstream depiction does not adequately reflect. I ended up enjoying my visit here so much that I wanted to stay longer.
Dubai is a city caught between old and modern. A conservative society of old-world traditions, but also a Middle-Eastern Vegas where everything goes (as long as it’s behind closed doors). I was struck at how much there was to explore in this area — and how, even after just a week, I was left wanting more.
Dubai is a fascinating, multicultural city that needs to be more than just a passing by. This guide will help you make the most of your trip while also teaching you how to save money during your Dubai city tour.
Things To Do And See In Dubai
Wander the Marina
The marina area is lined by tall buildings and features a lovely scenic boardwalk. There are a variety of fancy vessels, luxurious hotels, and bars and restaurants with views of the harbor here. Pier 7, which has seven stories with restaurants and bars on the beach, is a must-see. Asia, with its gaudy Asian style, appealed to me.
Hit the Mall
Dubai malls are unlike any other malls in the country. The city has over 65 malls, with more on the way. Malls are common among the locals! There is a plethora of amazing items to see and do between the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates.
Luxury shopping, regular waterfall displays, an aquarium inside the Dubai Mall (with a 270-degree underwater tunnel you can pass through), and even indoor skiing at the Mall of the Emirates are accessible (the Mall of the Emirates also has over 650 stores and 100 restaurants). You will still go to the Ibn Battuta Center, the world’s biggest themed mall. It has a Moroccan theme and is named after the adventurer of the same name (it has over 270 stores and 50 restaurants too). Dress properly to stop sporting crop tops, jeans, or mini-skirts.
Visit the Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, located in nearby Abu Dhabi, is well worth a half-day visit. The mosque and its associated gardens cover more than 30 acres and were built between 1996 and 2007. The mosque and its vast square are almost entirely white, lending it a magnificent appearance. Dubai is a 90-minute drive away (about 290 AED each way in a taxi or 25 AED on the bus).
Since it is a place of worship, you can wear proper apparel (they have cover-up items available for anyone without suitable attire). Every day during Eid, up to 41,000 people visit the mosque. The event is open to attend.
Explore The Old Dubai
This is Dubai as it once was. Markets (including the popular gold market) dot the landscape, small shops line the sidewalks, and the neighborhood is a veritable labyrinth of alleyways. Take a boat through Dubai Creek to Deira (you can ride an abra, a traditional wooden boat) and walk aimlessly around the lanes, eat at some of the traditional restaurants, visit the art quarter, and experience Dubai away from the glitz of the malls and high-rises.
Don’t skip the Dubai Frame (a landmark with the best views of the city), the gold market (which has up to 10 tons of gold on hand at all times.
Visit the Jumeirah Mosque
This magnificent mosque, which opened in 1979, is one of only two in the region that you can actually see. It is built in the Fatimid style and consists of one wide space. A guided tour is available every day at 10 a.m. (except for Fridays). It costs 35 AED and contains a wonderful breakfast spread. If you don’t know anything about Islam or its place in the UAE, this is a fascinating trip.
Go Deep Sea Fishing
If you want to try your hand at deep-sea fishing, you can easily book a seat on a cruise and travel out to sea. Tour operators appeal to people of all ages and degrees of expertise, and the majority of packages provide lunch. Prices can differ depending on the type of vessel booked and the length of the journey, so plan to spend about $1,500 AUD for a 4–6-hour trip.
Relax at Jumeirah Beach
This white-sand beach is ideal for sunbathing and strolling along the boardwalk. There are several stores to enjoy along the coast just south of the city’s historic district, and there is also an outdoor movie theatre. Not only is this a wonderful place to come, but it’s still a great place to linger because there’s so much to explore. There are playgrounds for children as well as BBQ zones. It’s ideal for picnics, although it gets incredibly noisy on weekends, so aim to come throughout the week to escape the traffic.
Wander the Palm Island
A massive shopping walkway, the Atlantis casino, Aqua venture waterpark, and a slew of upscale restaurants, pubs, and clubs can all be found on this iconic man-made palm tree-shaped island. During the day, it’s lovely to wander about and discover (at night, it’s pretty boring!).
Visit the Souk Madinat Jumeirah
This souk (market) is housed in a futuristic building that seems to be something out of Aladdin, but it really houses some excellent restaurants. This building also has a lovely inner courtyard pond. If you’re a foodie person, this is the best place to go! Don’t skip Al Makan for traditional local fare, Anar for Persian food, and The Noodle House for delectable Asian fare.
Binge at Brunch
Brunch is a common meal for both locals and expats. Everyone gathers every Friday for a midday spread with complimentary beverages and snacks. If the day progresses, it often devolves into debauchery worthy of Nero. Brunch, on the other hand, is not inexpensive, costing up to 700 AED. Inquire with the hotel/hostel team about the cheapest brunch spots. Usually, you will find any for less than 300 AED.
Dubai Travel Guide: Money Saving Ideas
Dubai is a pricey area. You’ll lose a lot of money if you hang out in malls and restaurants that belong to expats. However, there are a few items you should do to conserve money and stop blowing your envelope. Here are some fast money-saving tips for Dubai:
Groupon is incredibly common in Dubai, and the website features a plethora of promotions, 2-for-1 specials, and promotions. If you want to do stuff, search there first and there is a good chance you can find a deal.
Get the Entertainer
The Entertainer is a journal and smartphone that provides deals and promotions on restaurants, lodging, and events. When you arrive in Dubai, pick up a duplicate. It’s not inexpensive (it costs 395 AED), but you will sometimes get a 50 percent discount or a free trial. It would be worthwhile if you want to see and do a ton.
Find Happy Hours
Dubai is brimming with happy hours. To stop the city’s high-priced booze, plan your drinking accordingly.
Skip the Booze
Drinking is costly outside of happy hours and all-you-can-eat brunches, so I would limit your drinking during your stay — or miss it entirely if you’re on a budget.
Eat in Old Dubai
Step away from the hotels, malls, and fancy souks designed to make you feel like you’re in Aladdin and into Old Dubai for inexpensive eats. Meals in this neighborhood are less than 85 AED.
Pick Accommodation Near Metro
Make sure your lodging is close to a metro station. When it’s humid outside, you don’t want to be driving around unnecessarily, and public transit is much better than taxis.
Bring Reusable Water Bottle
Since the drinking water in Dubai is healthy to drink, carry a reusable water bottle to reduce the use of single-use plastic. LifeStraw produces a reusable container with an embedded filter to ensure that your water is both clean and healthy.
How to Get Around the Dubai?
The metro system in Dubai has approximately 50 stations. Through public transit, you can get to or near your destination. The hours of service vary depending on the day, but all lines begin operations about 5:30 a.m. and finish about 1 a.m. On Fridays, though, the trains do not begin operating until 10 a.m. To travel around, you’ll require a Nol Pass, which can be purchased for 70 AED at either of the metro station ticket offices.
The cost of your ticket is determined by which zone you are going to. A regular ticket for one zone costs 4 AED, a ticket for two zones costs 6 AED, and a ticket for three or more zones costs 8.50 AED.
If you can’t get to your destination by subway, the bus will take you there. The bus, like the Metro, has various zones, and the Nol card is used to pay.
The ferry in Dubai operates seven days a week from three separate terminals in the marina. Evening ferry journeys are far busier, so arrive at the terminal 30 minutes early. Silver class tickets cost 15-50 AED (seats in the main portion of the boat) and gold class tickets cost 25-75 AED (more comfortable seats at the front of the boat).
Taxis begin at 12 AED and increase by approximately 2.50 AED per kilometer. If necessary, stop them. They add up Very Well!
Uber and Careem are the two most used ride-hailing apps in Dubai. They are not all less expensive than a regular cab, but they are much more comfortable.
Cars can be hired for about 65 AED per day if you are leaving the area. I would only rent one if you were leaving town. Otherwise, simply take public transit.
Next bike leases bikes for about 20 AED per hour or 80 AED per day.
When to Go in Dubai?
The best time to go Dubai is between November and April. With regular temperatures average about 27°C (80°F), the weather is cooler and ideal for desert safaris in Dubai. However, flights and lodging may be more costly during this time.
May-August is the low season in Dubai since it is simply too hot. The regular highs average about 41°C (106°F), making sightseeing in the region intolerable. It was incredibly hot when I visited in August. If you can, avoid the season!
The shoulder season, which lasts from September to October, is when the sea is ideal for swimming and water activities. It is also less crowded at this period, meaning there would be less queues and lower costs.
How You Can Stay Safe In Dubai?
Dubai is an extremely secure place. Violent violence is very uncommon. Petty stealing and pickpocketing are still likely, although they are exceedingly unlikely. You should be fine as long as you hold your valuables safe.
Many practices that are legal in other countries are not legal in Dubai, including public displays of intimacy for unmarried or LGBTQ couples, drunken conduct, immodest clothing, cursing, photographing citizens without their consent, and opposing the UAE’s leadership, among others.
In a nutshell, you can dress and behave conservatively here. All of the unusual and bizarre incidents that happen in the community take place behind closed doors. It’s a “see no wrong” matter. Don’t test the limits in public or you’ll get in trouble. If an accident occurs, call 999 for police, 998 for an ambulance, and 997 for the fire service.